Reading is an enjoyable, relaxing, and positive activity. Unwinding with a good book can help relieve stress and even help your child understand their emotions and overcome problems.
But sometimes reading can be a source of stress, whether your child hasn't found the right match due to reading level or the subject matter doesn’t align with your child’s interests. Whatever the reason, creating a positive association with reading will greatly benefit your child in the long run — both academically and personally.
Tim Rasinski, PhD, a Professor of Literacy Education who holds the Rebecca Tolle and Burton W. Gorman Chair in Educational Leadership at Kent State University, shares ways to turn reading into an enjoyable experience for your child.
When your child learns to associate feelings of relaxation, calm, and family bonding with reading, they will be more likely to turn to the activity to unwind on their own. Reading together daily is a great first step towards creating positive memories and associations for your child.
“Set a time for family reading together — 10 to 15 minutes per day at a set time, like before dinner or during bedtime,” says Rasinski. “Research has shown that children who are read to are more motivated to read, have larger vocabularies, and better comprehension. You can read books to children that are above their own reading level.”
Reading books above your child’s reading level a little at a time can be tremendously helpful in broadening their reading horizons and introducing them to new literary concepts. Whether you’re reading together picture books (like The Smart Cookie) or chapter books (like Dragon Girls: Azmina the Gold Glitter Dragon), a daily reading routine will make all the difference in how your child views this activity.
Try Paired Reading
Paired reading — when a parent and child take turns reading the same text aloud to each other — can also shift your child’s perspective on reading as a whole. Early chapter books, like the Branches and Acorn lines of books, are perfect for this activity.
Use this time to be a reading role model for your child — when they see how much you enjoy reading, they’ll likely want to try it out for themselves and take as much pleasure in reading as you do.
“You can find great examples of paired reading on YouTube,” adds Rasinski.
Read a New Song or Poem Every Day
Songs and poems are great ways to encourage reading in smaller increments. They also teach more complex literary concepts— like symbolism, figures of speech, and allegory — in a way that children can understand and enjoy.
Poetry and songs also allow for creative expression, which children love participating in. Whether you paint images that illustrate the poem or use performance, storytelling is still front and center.
“Break it up into parts so that other family members can participate,” says Rasinski. “Allow your child to perform their poem for other family members.”
Play Word Games
Engaging your child in reading via play is a fun and creative way to get them to love reading. When they’re busy having fun, your child won’t even realize that what they’re actually doing is sharpening their reading skills.
Games like Pictionary, crossword puzzles, and word searches are perfect for children of all ages. They allow for imagination and encourage children to build their vocabulary. Plus, when families play word games together, children will want to engage more and more.
“Children are more motivated when they see that reading is important enough for family members to do together,” says Rasinski. “Some of our best memories of childhood are doing things as a family — reading and playing word games should be among these things.”
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